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The Phone Is Dead


Cary BushBy Cary Bush

The desktop business phone, as we knew it, is dead. I don’t mean that it is not working, I just mean that it is officially dead. There is no use for it anymore … at least not for “new” ones. There may still be use for the installed base, but the hardware manufacturers that focus on this as a primary part of their business model need to be put on notice. The enterprise consumers, as a whole, are not an organized lobby, but if they were, they would be putting out an End of Purchase (EOP) notice. This would essentially be the manufacturer equivalent to an EOS (end of sale) statement, which is when they have effectively drained all the usefulness (and profit) out of a product that not enough people are buying anymore.

You may question this assertion, considering how many businesses still provide desktop phones as a part of their “standard” offering for employees. Rest assured, the desktop phone is dead, and we have Apple and Google to thank for it. Ever heard of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)? My guess is you’ve heard enough that you tired of hearing about it. It may sound tired, but the impact of its disruption is yet to be fully realized.

Let me explain: Think about what the desktop phone is used for these days. Have you noticed the only time you use it is when people actually call you? Those times when you are actually sitting at your desk and you hear it? Why don’t you use it more? Because it doesn’t “do anything” for you. All of the UC (unified communications) applications are now written for what we state at … the “pane of glass” in front of our faces the desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc. The desktop phone, even the ones with the cool color touchscreens and cameras, are just a sideshow. They lack flexibility, so when we are on the move, we want something that goes with us the mobile devices we’ve come to depend on. These devices already have those cool things like touchscreens and cameras, etc. built in. And most enterprise employees already are carrying them around, so why would a large organization invest hundreds of dollars per user to duplicate something they already have?

Make no mistake: “Smart” devices have taken over. I reach for that no matter where I am home, office or the lobby at the oil change station. These devices, with their inherent ability to join public and private Wi-Fi networks, are sitting there, waiting to be fully used as an enterprise endpoint. We are waiting for the software manufacturers to catch up with technology that they claim to master. Some are doing it (mostly the cloud or SaaS providers), but really it is up in the air for an entity to come up with the best solution overall (hint, hint, Google Voice … or an unknown of your ilk).

Ultimately, the phone is dying because it is a waste of time and money to support. Why not make the “business calls” route to the device that is more readily available? The desktop phone and the legacy wired infrastructure are going away simply because their maintenance costs are ridiculously high when compared to providing the same level of connectivity with a fraction of the physical points of failure! Simply put, it’s just cheaper.

There are a few things that will aid this transition, some of which I have already mentioned.

  • First, the consistency in the smart devices (and their respective operating systems). In this case, when it comes to iOS- and Droid-powered devices, I think we are already there.
  • Second, the WLAN networks of the enterprise need to be solid (just like sister copper LAN, with QoS and widespread coverage). This probably isn’t a reality for all companies yet, but I assure you it is “under construction” almost everywhere.
  • Third, there needs to be a fluid solution that will bring together the mobile networks, the PSTN and the enterprise feature set that most corporate employees expect. I don’t see any official “leader” here, but you can it is going to come from a cloud-based solution and not from a “big box” communications manufacturer alone; their offer most likely would be too proprietary, which translates to being too expensive.

My last point, and the one that will be the slowest to develop, is actually the simplest … when the workforce continues to grow “younger” they won’t want to be saddled with the same old technology. They require flexibility, and they will command it to happen by their rejection of “the way things were.” Bottom line, the train already has left the station, and there is no turning back.

The phone is dead, Jack.

Cary Bush is chief “cloud advocate” at Cloud Based Service Inc
. and is experienced on all sides of the communications industry channel. His former roles have included leading business development efforts in the VAR realm, as well as a stint in enterprise account management with a leading communications manufacturer. Having previously served on technology and channel advisory boards, and currently evangelizing how organizations can benefit by applying cloud solutions, he voices his opinions from his mid- Tennessee “home base” as a member of the Nashville Technology Council and vice chair of his alma mater’s (Trevecca) Association of Business Professionals. 


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